Identifying trends over time in food affordability: The Illawarra Healthy Food Basket survey, 2011-2019

Publication Name

Health Promotion Journal of Australia


Objective: To determine the affordability of a healthy food basket (HFB) for welfare recipients and average income earners in 2019 and to compare trends from 2011. Methods: Fifty-seven food items’ prices were collected from fifteen stores across five suburbs representing low, medium and high socio-economic status. Costs were compared with average weekly income and welfare payments to assess the baskets’ affordability for a family of four and five. Results: In 2019, a HFB was affordable (below 30% of household income) for a five-person reference family with a pensioner, representing 24.8% of weekly welfare payments, but not for a four-person reference family (33.0%). The cost of the HFB increased slightly over time from AU$288.91 in 2011 to AU$291.79 in 2019. The food affordability improved for a family of five including a pensioner over this period due to an increase of average weekly earnings and welfare payments. Conclusion: In 2019, the HFB was affordable for a five-person family; however, a four-person family receiving welfare benefits would have experienced significant “food stress,” with the food basket costing above 30% of household income. Implications for Health Promotion: Inequity in the affordability of healthy food is a major public health concern and one that demands recognition and national action. The impact of policies affecting welfare support and wages needs to be considered, as well as food pricing strategies and possible food subsidies for those at greatest risk of food insecurity.

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